The sub saga continues in the littorals off Sweden's coast. There are signs, and rumors that Sweden may have the mystery submersible surrounded in a bay just off the southern tip of Stockholm. Meanwhile, Swedish commanders are now saying that they are prepared to use whatever weaponry needed to make the craft come to the surface.
There are presently at least five ships, one of which is Sweden's most advanced, the Visby, scouring Inagro Bay. This inlet sits at the entry into Stockholm's rivarine waters, just some 16 miles from center of the city. Here, it is rumored that contact was made with the foreign submersible, and according to Swedish military officials, they are not playing a harmless game of cat and mouse anymore. According to the Swedish news outlet The Local, Supreme Commander General Sverker Goranson stated:
"Our aim now is to force whatever it is up to the surface... with armed force, if necessary. The most important value of the operation - regardless of whether we find something — is to send a very clear signal that Sweden and its armed forces are acting and are ready to act when we think this kind of activity is violating our borders."
The search migrating to the closest point to the Swedish mainland as of yet has come as over 100 reports of citizens seeing the craft have accumulated in just a period of a couple days. General Goranson states:
"We're still getting more reports, and I want to underline the fact that we're happy about this. You mustn't forget that there's a great deal of work to be done with such a flood of reports. We have to analyze and confirm them all."
Meanwhile, some sources say that the Swedish military has admitted that the 'picture' they handed out, seemingly taken by a bystander depicting what could have been a foreign submarine in the distance, was targeted misinformation. The BBC states that a military spokesman has confirmed that the image circulated depicted one of their own submarines, and was used "so as not to aid a foreign power" in relation to where the military thought the mystery submarine was. Also, the man in black that was supposedly pictured wading ashore is said to have been a old-age pensioner from Stockholm who saw a picture of himself in the paper and was stunned.
These revelations have created a stir among conspiracy theorists who think that Sweden may not be tracking anything at all, and are just trying to send a strong message to Russia who has been much more belligerent in the area when it comes to territorial violations. Meanwhile, others say that the area has been transited by Russian submarines for decades, and that they are virtually undetectable under the circumstances as the Swedish military is ill equipped to find them among the complex littorals off Sweden's mainland.
Of significant note is the fact that Sweden's anti-submarine helicopter force was largely retired by the late 2000s, and their replacement, the modern NH90 with its modular ASW mission fit, has been slow coming and problem plagued. In addition, their Navy is tiny, with just a small handful of Corvettes equipped to detect submarines at all, nine to be exact, and only about half of those are of a modern variety.
What Sweden does have a small fleet (five boats) of incredibly quiet and capable diesel attack submarines. It is unclear if they are a part of the search or not. If they are involved in the search, doing so may have greatly skewed reports of mystery sub sightings.
Although Sweden's sub hunt has been fairly opaque so far, what is clear is that the country needs to invest in their anti-submarine warfare capabilities if they wish to deter future incursions. Their own military and political leadership has openly admitted to the deterioration of the security situation on the Baltic Sea, and after a couple of decades of enjoying the "peace dividend" following the fall of the USSR, it may be time to update their defense policy and the budgets that go along with it.
Even among these questionable details and less than encouraging strategic revelations, the Swedish military remains adamant that there is a foreign sub in their midst. Yet the only way anyone can know for sure as to the validity of these claims is if they put their depth charges where their mouths are and force whatever they think is still there to the surface. Although, doing so may set a poor precedent internationally as we can be fairly certain that America's submarine force spends a good part of their time where technically they should not be as well.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com